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Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) runs and consumer fitness: growth and energy storage in stream-dwelling salmonids increase with salmon spawner density

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We examined how marine-derived nutrients (MDN), in the form of spawning Pacific salmon, influenced the nutritional status and δ15N of stream-dwelling fishes. We sampled juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) during spring and fall from 11 south-central Alaskan streams that ranged widely in spawning salmon biomass (0.1–4.7 kg·m–2). Growth rate (as indexed by RNA–DNA ratios), energy density, and δ15N enrichment in spring-sampled fishes increased with spawner biomass, indicating the persistence of spawner effects more than 6 months after salmon spawning. Point estimates suggest that spawner effects on nutrition were substantially greater for coho salmon than Dolly Varden (268% and 175% greater for growth and energy, respectively), indicating that both species benefitted physiologically, but that juvenile coho salmon accrued more benefits than Dolly Varden. Although the data were less conclusive for fall- than spring-sampled fish, they do suggest spawner effects were also generally positive during fall, soon after salmon spawned. In a follow-up analysis where growth rate and energy density were modeled as a function of δ15N enrichment, results suggested that both increased with MDN assimilation, especially in juvenile coho salmon. Our results support the importance of salmon runs to the nutritional ecology of stream-dwelling fishes.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: US Geological Survey, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 902 Koyukuk Drive, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA. 2: US Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, Denver Federal Center, Box 25046, Building 21, MS963, Denver, CO 80225, USA. 3: National Marine Fisheries Service, Auke Bay Laboratories, 17109 Pt. Lena Loop Road, Juneau, AK 99801, USA. 4: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 243 Fort Keogh Street, Miles City, MT 53901, USA.

Publication date: January 16, 2012

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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